Can We Connect to God Through Nature?

A friend of mine recently contacted me asking for help with the following the question:

Hey Kirk! I’m in the beginning phase of researching if nature can connect people to God. Do you have any thoughts or good references?

This is a pretty common sentiment today — i.e., that we can connect to God through nature — especially as “spirituality” (but not religion) grows increasingly popular.

My response is to my friend is below. I thought I would share it here as well in case it can be of help to anyone else.


Hey [friend]!

The short summary version of the historic orthodox Christian view on this is this:

God is incomprehensible, and is only knowable to us because he himself has chosen to make himself known (what is called “divine revelation,” i.e., him revealing himself). Revelation in other words is an act of God’s grace. He does this self-revealing through special or supernatural revelation (like scripture) and general or natural revelation (like nature).

God is made known through his creation, yet distinct from his creation (so not pantheism or panentheism — most claims that we can “connect” with God though nature hold to these ideas). Creation itself is not God. It merely gives witness to God. And so we don’t “connect to God through nature” in the sense of nature itself being an experience of God himself. It only mediates knowledge of God.

Furthermore, scripture teaches that general revelation (like nature) proves insufficient for us to come to know God as he truly is and enable us to respond properly (worship). Why? Not because God hasn’t sufficiently made himself known through nature. He has, even enough to make us culpable for our disobedience to him. It proves insufficient because our sin blinds us, and we refuse to believe nature’s testimony to God. We are willfully blind, and hence responsible, not excused. Our hearts bend us to turn to idols, and instead we take the truth in nature and distort it.

Natural revelation, in short, is enough knowledge about God to make us condemnable and responsible for our rebellion—we know there’s a God who deserves our worshipful obedience, but we don’t give it to him as we ought—but not enough knowledge to save us (there’s no gospel message in nature) and “(re)connect us to God” as we properly should.

So the answer is yes and no.

If I were to direct you to some subjects of study on this, I’d suggest finding some good systematic theology books and looking up the sections on “general revelation.” The other subjects I’d look up are maybe God’s immanence (God’s transcendence refers to the fact that God is so far above us; his immanence refers to the fact that he is still yet near to us), and his providence — that he oversees all of history and creation, such as nature, and can be known through this oversight.

Key biblical passages are Psalm 19 and Romans 1.

Redemptive-Historical Survey: 1 | Creation (LDBC Recap 2/14/16 Pt. 2)

Explanation

logo-lake-drive-baptist-churchOn Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.

Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.

See previous posts:

Recap/review

In this post we will recap our initial venture in surveying redemptive history, i.e., the role of creation in redemptive history.

The basic narrative of redemptive history

First, we recalled the basic narrative framework of redemptive history as a refresher. It can be presented as follows:

These four events are the central turning points in the all-encompassing storyline of scripture. But they leave a lot out (like all of God’s dealings with Israel!). Therefore, in this section of the course, as we survey redemptive history, we will unpack the contours and stages in between these four pillar-events.

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Justin Taylor, “Day” in Genesis 1-2, and Pre-Evolution Interpretation

In a recent post at The Gospel Coalition (also see this older post), Justin Taylor discusses “Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods.”

I’ve written about the creation debates before. And if you’ve talked to me in person about these matters, you’ve probably heard make something like the following comment:

One of the reasons (it would seem to be the main reason) interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 and the nature of God’s creative work have become so stinking controversial is the arrival of evolutionary theories. Since Darwin, proposing anything besides a 24-hour-day-view of the “days” in Genesis 1 immediately became way more controversial than it was prior to Darwin. This is due to the fact that anti-macroevolution Christians view Genesis 1-2 as a battle ground. If you walk there now, you’re going to step on a land mine even if you were not the originally intended target.

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Thoughts on Engaging the Creation Debate

Introductory remarks

You should keep in mind that as I write this post, I am not taking a specific position on issues such as evolution, God and science, nor the meaning of Genesis 1-2. In this post I simply seek to share some thoughts I have on these matters. At times and in various circles, creation debates can be very heated. I understand that. But sometimes I think the result is that things get a little blown out of proportion. I’m not suggesting we compromise on vital truth. But I guess I’m calling us to examine what constitutes as that vital truth. In class last year, Dr. Carson reminded us of the words of Francis Schaeffer: something like, “what is the least Genesis 1-2 must be saying for the rest of the Bible to be true.” Secondary truths are not by nature unimportant truths. And I don’t want to downplay their importance. But they must be distinguished from primary doctrines. And either way, no context excludes the necessity of charitableness.

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Regeneration and the New Creation

An Introductory Biblical Theology of Regeneration as it Pertains to a Proper Understanding of Inaugurated Eschatology

In contrast to systematic theology, a discipline that tackles doctrines in a neat, organized, systematic, and generally atemporal fashion, Biblical theology seeks to examine Biblical themes through the lens of progressive revelation, that is, in light of scripture’s metanarrative or unfolding plotline. Biblically theology deliberately makes temporal sequence (time development) and Scripture’s broad storyline the grid through which theology, doctrines, and themes are studied and investigated.

The following post will seek to provide an introduction to a Biblical theology on regeneration as it pertains to a proper understanding of inaugurated (already initiated) eschatology (pertaining to “last things”).

If that sounds confusing, that’s okay; it’ll all makes sense in just a bit.

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